Friday, April 14, 2017

All's well medically, still sorting

My heart's pumping fine. My brain is healthy. Doctor says I am in great shape. except for the pine pollen that has everyone including me, sneezing and wiping their noses.

Regarding the half clogged carotids, Dr. Greg (his first name and what everyone calls him) said he would order testing every six months to monitor change.  And even if the build up increases I may not be in any danger with the blood still flowing to my brain.  Many other factors like my health in general are used to determine what or what not to do.

We discussed the causes and one thing he brought up was nicotine. He asked if I'd ever smoked, for how long, how much a day and when I finally quit. I quit 25 years ago, smoked a pack a day off and on for 25 or so years. He explained over the years of smoking, the nicotine could have played a part in the build up in those veins. That's something I never considered.

So, for the feeling I had in my brain of being turned off and on again, we'll just leave it at that. A feeling. And I am so relieved.

I've been sniffling and sneezing for two weeks now. Dr, Greg said no, it is not the flu and likely not a cold. It is allergies due to the tremendous amount of pollen besieging us. This year is particularly bad because we haven't had rain to wash it away. Everything outside has had a permanent yellow dusting on it for weeks from the pine trees. I took Mucinex. It didn't work. The I took Zyrtek and that didn't help. Doctor told me to use Allegra instead because it is a different medication and when one doesn't work, the other one will. Hopefully, because I am tired of blowing.

Not much else going on. I did go to grief support group yesterday. My main reason was to see the other Nancy in the group. We started going at the same time and became pals, telling everyone else ours were the only names we could remember. She wasn't at the last meeting and I didn't attend the one before that, so it was a while since we'd seen each other. I wanted to let her know I don't plan to attend any more unless the need arises. Turns out she is at the same point.

Been busy going through more stuff to toss or take to Goodwill. Kevin had so many things that had meaning to him. It is hard, but I manage to let go, a little at a time. Makes me think about myself. I am worse with attachments. I don't want to get rid of my own stuff let alone pick and choose among his favorites. Yet, it is something I have to do while I can. I wouldn't want to leave it up to a beloved relative nor a perfect stranger.

I don't know about you, but I have this idea that my stuff is so important everyone else should love it as much as me. Do you know what I mean? Although, the point is well made when you see stuff with hefty pricing at yard sales. The glass that says, " God bless Milwaukee." or a seashell nightlight from Miami. We don't have those things, I just made them up.

The hardest part is removing the story behind the item in order to let go.

Happy Easter everyone. Here is a picture of Kevin wearing his Easter hat last year on this day:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday, Monday

 I've been feeling a bit emotional today. A lot of this day reminds me of Kevin. First with a happy feeling and smile. Then ... sadness.

In my attempt to rein in expenses I called Spectrum, planning to ditch cable TV, but hang on to Internet service. Use to be Bright House. Was bought up by Spectrum which sent a letter last year explaining we would get the same stellar service and there would not be a rate hike. They've found reasons to nickel and dime we customers twice since.

Kevin had whittled the service down to a point where he could still watch baseball. Sadly, he never got to watch his favorite teams last year.

So, I've been putting off dealing with the cable people until today. I called and at first ended up with "new Sales" department. The guy immediately assumed I wanted to add a land phone to cable and Internet. When I told him no, he laid it on about how cell phones aren't very dependable and what if I lost my found and had an emergency.. I wanted to tell him how I've gotten by for several years now with a cell phone, I'd be fine. Instead, I thanked him for his concern and he transferred me to the right department.

This guy was all peppy and when he asked why I didn't want TV, I replied that my husband recently passed away and I need to cut my expenses. He told me he was sorry for my loss and waited a few seconds before warning me about having a perfectly good TV taking up space in the living room and not being able to use it. I politely told him I can watch NetFlix on my otherwise dormant TV.

He did manage to talk me into keeping some bare minimum channels. He reassured me I could dump TV altogether if I still didn't want it.

I hate dealing with things like that. How is it we are suckered into paying for TV? Bad enough having to pay for Internet.  If Kevin were here today, it would be a  moot point though as he'd be gearing up for baseball season.

After Zumba class I went to the new Aldis just down the street from home. I feel sorry for Publix because they lost me. What excites me most is the the produce section. Stephanie told me yesterday that the cantaloupes at her Aldis in Palm Beach County  are sweet and just 99 cents. I bought two of them along with a pineapple, strawberries and bananas. Organic.  Plus enough veggies to make many different dishes.

This afternoon I started cutting up a cantaloupe and I felt so happy. I thought, "Kevin is going to love this." Then it hit me. Kevin loved this time of the year and most of summer because he could never get enough fruit. Cantaloupe and berries were his favorites as well as pineapple and watermelon. He decided I was pretty good at picking out the sweetest and freshest fruits.

Last year at this time, Kevin wasn't eating well. He'd still eat a few pieces of cantaloupe, but not like when he would sometimes eat a half of one for dessert. Those days haunt me. Doctors and nurses would say to me, "He needs to eat." No matter how hard I tried I couldn't force him to eat, and I know it was because he couldn't. I was in the middle, trying to do what the medics told me to do and then having to keep pushing Kevin to do something he could not do.

I did a lot of dusting and ran the vacuum this afternoon. Hadn't been done properly in a while and I believe the dust has something to do with my drippy sinuses. As I was doing it I thought about the year Kevin was ill and how I made every effort to keep our home dust free. While he was home with Hospice care, the last time I ran the vacuum before he died, he raised his hand and said, "Don't." I stopped, thinking he didn't want the vacuum noise, Or that I was stirring up dust around him. I don't know why he wanted me to stop.

His box of ashes sit on his rocking chair in a corner of the living room. I talked to him as I moved the box to clean his pillow where the box sits. I told him, I would just be a minute and the room would be fresh and clean again. I wished it was Kevin sitting there reading, with a cup of tea. I would've welcomed an eye roll and a teasing groan as he lifted his feet for me. I would gladly share the cantaloupe with him.

Days like this remind me of what I lost, what everyone who knew him lost. It still doesn't always register. There are glimpses of hope that I will wake up from this very sad dream. Then I take a deep breath and thank my lucky stars for the life we shared. I miss him everyday. Some days, more than others.

Here is Kevin eating watermelon on the National Mall in Washington, DC, July 4th, 2000. It is the same day he shook hands with the Dalai Lama.

Thank you for reading my blog posts and your best wishes and comments. I appreciate hearing from you.  Nancy

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Corroded carotids, cataract clouds, crappy craft show and a cold

Now that I set the stage for this post, I expect you to read it. Hah. No, really. It's been nearly a month since I last wrote. A month full of emotional and physical stress. Every time I thought about updating you, I put it off, hoping for a slow down, some relief. All at once occurrences usually don't happen to me.

But first, let me point out how much I enjoy going to the gym, taking Zumba and drumming classes. I regret not having nor taking the time many years ago for these activities. This part of my days are doing positive things for m and have nothing to do with me otherwise falling apart.

On March 8th I was in bed fiddling with my phone (doing crosswords). When I felt tired, I put the phone away, turned off the lights and said goodnight to the cat and Kevin. All of a sudden I had this feeling in my brain. It was as though I was a robot and someone had, in a microsecond  turned me off and on again. It felt like a wave went through my brain in a dip. I thought, "I am shutting down,"  and immediately, "I back on again."

That was odd, I thought. And took a retake of what happened before falling asleep. The next morning I was off to the gym. While there I started thinking about what happened and at first decided it was probably just my overactive mind. But by the time my workout was finished, I decided it wouldn't hurt to stop by my doctor's office on the way home and mention it, just in case. I ended up with an appointment the following morning.

My doctor said it was possibly a TIA, Transient Ischemic Attack, aka mini stroke or forewarning of a stroke. He said while there is no test to definitely say that is what happened, he'd order other tests to check for stroke conditions and also check my brain to see if there isn't something else going that needs attention. He was surprised by it since I don't fit the pattern. I was just there for my six month check up and all seemed fine. He prescribed the low dose aspirin and off I went with many fears.

When he said TIA I had now idea what he was talking about, but it soon became clear. When I told a few people I realized those close to my age reacted almost nonchalant and cited friends and relatives who have or had TIA. On the other hand, the kids (daughters and grands) were more like me jumping from TIA to stroke and having scary thoughts. I'd read online that 50% of the time those who had a TIA had a stroke within a few days. So that was a trying time between the strange occurrence in my head and the tests.

I know the results of the Doppler carotid test. Both carotids (arteries that bring blood to my brain) are 50% clogged. When I heard that, I was ready to scream in terror. Then I was told my insurance wouldn't cover medical treatment until they were 70 to 80% clogged and the doctor's office had already placed an order to have them checked again in six months. It took me a few days to understand it must take some time for the carotids to get to the danger point.

I didn't get results for the test that checked my heart or the Brain MRI, so no news is good. I have a follow-up appointment next week.

In the meantime, I went to the eye doctor regarding cataracts in my left eye. It is getting tough driving at night and harder to see very far away.  They set up an appointment for cataract surgery in June. I am planning to spend most of May in wonderful Palm Beach County with the girls.

This was also kind of a hassle. I didn't care for the optical place I went to on last fall for new glasses. I ended up paying a lot more for the glasses then the insurance company said. what they did was talk me into special deals on everything from the frames, lens to coatings, which cost me more money. Each line item was the same but added up differently. I can't explain. I decided to go to the Hernando Eye Institute which is where Dr. Tang sent Kevin a year ago. It seemed more professional and listed in the insurance company manual. I'd asked my primary care doctor is I need a referral from him and he did one.

When I called for an appointment I found out they weren't contracted with that company, that I was assigned to another place and to call my insurance and request a change. Another long story short, they did allow the change and boy am I glad. Since then I 've heard nothing but horror stories about the other place regarding cataract surgery and nothing but good things about the doctors at the eye ins.

While all of this is going on I was busy preparing for an upcoming craft show that turned out to be a dud. It was a twofer in downtown Brooksville. A statewide bicycle racing event and a health fair.  I wasn't going to do it, but was talked into it and they lowered my entry fee. Doesn't matter I still lost money and a whole day.

Kevin and I did the annual bike racing event in 2010 when we first moved here. It was busy, fun and somewhat successful as far as sales. At the time it was run by the city.

This time the downtown association took control. Crowd turnout was low. The two events were set up on different city blocks and there didn't seem to be any commingling. Few people from the health fair bothered to check out booths on the race side which is where my booth was located. And the racers didn't pay any attention to what we were offering. I'd spent a lot of time stamping fabric with my famous stamp of Kevin's favorite bike's tread. Please note that's a drop of gold paint on the wallet and not ice cream.

I had a few sales. Some of the other vendors had no sales. it was the first really hot day of the year and I started having a sore throat. The good takeaway was getting to know some new vendors and catching up with others that I know from earlier shows.

That brings us to Tuesday (today) and I am hopefully getting over a cold. At least my throat feels better this morning.

Lots of good things happened. I went to the movies with my neighbor. We both admitted the movie sucked, but it was fun to be social on a Tuesday afternoon.  Had lunch with Anna and Sally, as always fun to be with them. Made lots of chicken soup and am brainstorming over what's next for Antsy Nancy Co aka Antsy Artist Redux.

I didn't get to the yard yet for urgent spring cleaning. I dread it more than ever. Kevin loved spring and always things everywhere.  Hot weather and summer here means doing yard work when you can stand to be out in the heat which is before 10 a.m.

I probably forgot some things I meant to share, but for now I am tapped out. and sure you are, too.

I've decided to lay off going to grief support. I can always go back.The topics and questions are generally the same each week and no longer things that concern me. The other reason to keep attending is for helping others get through it. I don't feel like the subjects they address have much to do with me. And there are others who are eager to help those new to grieve and loss.

Kevin is still keeping our beautiful blue skies interesting. Here is his artwork for the bike racing event:

I hope you have a less eventful, but better event-filled week, than me. Thank you for reading my posts. I am grateful for all of your good wishes.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Fun busy weekend it was, then

Sorry not to write sooner. I've been resting up after a busy three days at Weeki Wachee Swamp Fest. The crowds were great, the show was well organized and I am amazed I still have a voice after endlessly explaining my work to everyone interested.  I am just thrilled and flattered by all of the compliments and sales I received.

It was exhausting and I missed Kevin to help with the heavy stuff and details. He was my right hand and back up person. I got lots of help from Anna and Phyllis. They took shifts and made sure I was covered for bathroom breaks, assisting with set up and break down as well as helping with potential customers.

The weather was nice, except for wind on Sunday. I had great sales. Thanks to Serena who designed my new business cards. People were picking them up like crazy. The craft show attendees are much more savvy and know all about Etsy, these days. Other vendors I met during the weekend were very nice and I kept thinking Kevin would've made a bunch of new friends if he was there.

Only thing I questioned was why did the Republican Party have a booth set up? No election in the near future, as far as I know. I didn't ask and didn't listen.

The biggest bump for me happened between Saturday and Sunday. Anna brought some of her mermaid and ocean related aprons to sell at my booth. On Saturday she had some good sales including three to the woman who makes the mermaid costumes. The customer had to leave the aprons and return after the next Mermaid show to pay and pick up. Anna was leaving, so I told her I would take care of it for her.

I put the cash and woman's card in a plastic bag and in my pouch with my phone and money for safe keeping. Between then and the next morning after I got to my booth I couldn't find the bag with the money. I'd either lost it on Saturday or it was at home. Nothing was turned in to the info desk and the Boy Scout volunteers doing trash pick up hadn't turned anything in, so home was the next place it could be.

I looked and looked on Sunday night. I looked again on Monday, but found nothing.

This morning, I said in passing, as I always do lately when I can't find something, "Kevin, please help me find this little bag of money."  About 15 minutes later I sat down at the desk and something caught my eye. There it was by my feet under the desk. I sat here Saturday night while taking money out of my pouch and setting up my change for the next day. I sat here on Sunday morning before leaving to check stuff on my laptop. I sat here Sunday night as I removed sold items from my Etsy store as well as off and on yesterday while I updated stock and whatever on the laptop. I kept searching around  my desk Sunday evening and on Monday.  I was resolved that I lost it and I was getting over feeling ill over it.

You better believe this brought me to tears. Kevin found the bag for me and I believe, put it in plain sight. I miss him so much and I know in both my heart and brain that wherever the bag was, Kevin made sure it was in a place where I would find it. Oh I could go on about this.  I absolutely know it wasn't there before. Not even this morning when I first sat down to turn on the laptop, then went to make breakfast.

One thing, I took all of this a lot better than I ever would before. I didn't have an anxiety attack or go crazy thinking up all of the possible bad things that happened because of me.

Kevin always took care of me in ways I never realized. He would try to calm me down when I was upset. He was ALWAYS good at finding things I'd lose. Both of those incidents happened together. I couldn't find something so I would get all stressed out, shower blame on myself and get upset.

Kevin was always organized and that probably says a lot. I am more scattered, even though I try to keep some semblance of organization. I thought it was because I have  lot of stuff. But, I am realizing he had just as much and still knew where everything was at all times. That must have something to do with a part of the brain I am missing.

I am sure he is helping me. He must be pretty happy I didn't freak out and instead I kept reminding myself negative energy doesn't help solve problems. Instead I stayed positive.

And on Sunday I was asked to consider a pretty hefty special order that could lead to something more lucrative. I will keep you updated.

Back to Swamp Fest. It was a lot of work. There is so much to do and maintain. Doing a show for three days straight takes a lot of energy. In the end the contacts you make with so many people make it worthwhile. Years ago when we were doing shows on a regular basis, we were use to the rigor and pace. But that was then. Maybe I'll try some two-day events. But not this week. :)

Anyway, I must be looking more senior these days. On Sunday someone said to me, "These shows are tough on people our age." I looked up and thought, "Am I as old as You?"

No pictures of me, but here's one of Anna and customers:

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Looking forward to this weekend ....

... and really missing Kevin. I am doing a three-day craft show. That's fun. It is Swamp Fest at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and it starts tomorrow. Kevin's been my right hand when it comes to craft shows. Three days of nonstop hawking your wares in the sun, wind, sometimes rain can get the best of us down. But, we looked at differently. In the first place it seldom rains three days straight this time of the year. The sun is pretty nice in March and we tried to ignore the wind. The best part, about three-day shows, Kevin always said, was we get a days' break between set up and tear down. Even though, we went through a nightly procedure of closing our booth , setting up tearing down were the most exhausting parts of the weekend.

We did this show a few years ago when it was held in a county park and it was a two-day show. The first day we did pretty well and I was looking forward to Sunday. However, a bad storm swept through the area on Saturday night and the park was badly hit. Because of Kevin's diligence and regard for the overnight care of our belongings, he had secured the tent, tables and  goods. Our things were spared. Nothing was broken lost or otherwise damaged.

When we showed up on Sunday morning we were horrified to see the mayhem. I had a sick feeling that faded as we approached our spot. Many of the tents around us were overturned and stuff was scattered everywhere on the ground. A stained glass vendor had just arrived to a tent full of smashed artwork. They closed down the show.

Turned out the park was jinxed. Every storm whipped up turbulent wind in the park. We quit doing shows held there. The shows and concerts that were held there have been moved.

So, this year, I decided to give it another try. It is less than five miles from home, so why not?  All this week, I've been so excited. I love doing craft shows and meeting people. It is fun to explain how I do what I do. I spent many hours selecting which items to take. I made sure everything listed on Etsy was coded so I can use my Etsy card reader for both charges and cash sales. I was careful to pack things in some logical  order. Although, I decided to take a lot more stock than usual, I tried to follow how Kevin would pack the car and I actually got everything to fit.

But by this morning, worry started creeping into my head. Luckily Anna offered to help on  mornings through out the weekend. She's also adding a few of her items with mine. And neighbor Phyllis plans to come by on afternoons to  give me a break.

After setting up the tent and carefully anchoring the tables and bins this afternoon I worried all the way home that I had forgotten to do something or hadn't anchored everything properly.

Its just not the same. Kevin did so much. He had a big part in doing shows. There were all of these things I didn't have to think about, because those were his tasks. And everything ran pretty smoothly.

Most of all I miss the joy. He would talk to customers, tell them what processes I undertook for each piece. He'd take many pictures through out the weekend and put them on our website. I closed it a while ago. He'd wander talking to vendors we knew and make new friends with others. He would buy small treasures and bring me treats.

I loved looking back in the tent behind the tables, where he'd be reading a book, listening to a baseball game or just sitting there, taking it all in. I hardly ever worried back then. We both enjoyed doing this together.

When Kevin started feeling sick, we stopped doing shows.

I know he will be with me in my heart. I just hope I don't screw up. So please send me any good luck and best wishes you can spare. This weekend I need them.

Swamp Fest

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Go that extra mile

That was the topic for Father Jankowski's sermon Sunday. It seemed written especially for me, given what's been going on lately.  And then on Monday I got my, "Yay Nancy."

For the past two months I've been schlepping my neighbors back and forth to the hospitals, rehab,doctors' appointments, grocery shopping, lab appointments and to pick up prescriptions The husband developed a prostate problem and ended up being treated for kidney failure and diabetes (which he may not have). Being watched. She doesn't drive and they have no one to turn to for help. Except me, their next door neighbor.  I've written about all of this before. 

It has been stressful for me and I have to keep reminding myself that it is a whole lot more stressful for them. I've gone from whining over the near daily hits on my personal schedule to feeling better about myself once the latest trip is completed. last week, With each doctor's visit (he was seeing four of them) i would pray they would tell him he could resume driving. After all, he's been taking daily walks which he'd never done before the illness and he was eager to return to his part-time job at Publix. He is 75. 

Others kept telling me there are places, people out there who help people like my neighbors. My neighbors should make contact with these people or groups. I should tell them to make calls.  Maybe call for them. To my neighbors this is just a temporary obstacle. They wouldn't look any further for help. Although at one point, I was close to start looking because it seemed as though things weren't getting better. In the end, it wasn't something I could do.  I worried that I might cause them undue trouble.

I could write a novel over this. Between their insurance provider and the terrible treatment they received from the home health care contractor ....

I feel bad as last week I let my feelings show when asked a few times to take her here and there on last minute runs that could've been bundled into one trip. I frowned, groaned and probably rolled my eyes. It wasn't really her fault. More like doctors coming up with more blood testing or another prescription. She looked past my frustration.

In the end, before she dared ask, I brought up dropping her off at the grocery store while I went to the gym. 

Well, Monday was the big day, as far as we were all concerned. He was returning to his primary care doc at 1:15. I brought some work with me that I could do in the car as I waited for them. As usual it took nearly two hours. And yes, it was great news. No need for the diabetes meds. Everything is looking good. He can not only go back to driving. He can go back to work in ten days. 

I was so relieved and thankful. It felt good knowing I had something to do with getting them through this crisis.

I wish I had a transcript of Father Jankowski's message. He is an artist at making his point and then clarifying with appropriate vignettes. I have been beating myself up, going back and forth emotionally over all of this. His message was about happiness by always doing more than is expected.

I just started trying to retell his story, but it is too long and I can't remember everything. One part was when a neighbor asks for help go the mile they asked for, then go an extra mile for them and for yourself. In doing so, everyone including you will find happiness. ( I was tempted to raise my hand and ask the priest how many miles before I can holler uncle.)

I can also relate to some of his message and Kevin, but I need to put more thought into it before trying to write about it.

I don't know if I am getting my point across, but it struck a string or two in my heart. We can go back to being neighbors who wave at each other and exchange words, occasionally. I can get back to sewing and my own good health.

And I got my, "Yay Nancy," from Kevin. I know he would've done the same thing and I miss him everyday.

On this day last year we saw this wonderful movie, Lady in the Van. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Happy Birthday Kevin

This is my sharing of grief, loss and the daily act of coping with the death of my loving husband, Kevin. He passed away on June 26, 2016 after a devastating year-long battle with lung cancer that metastasized. 

If not for cancer Kevin would have turned 60 today. I imagine we would be in Disney town right about now, having lunch with his sister Georgia, Cathy, maybe the girls and anyone else who could meet up with us at The House of Blues or Raglan Road. We would be enjoying birthday cake and happy times. Here we are a few years ago, doing just that:

The following year we were back and at one of our favorite stores in Downtown Disney, now Disney Springs. Where else can a group of goofy people act goofy, but at Goofy's Candy Company? This time for my birthday. I laugh every time I think of Kevin on his hands and knees, being silly in the fun-house mirror. 

Kevin loved his MAC. This was taken in September, 2014, so I suspect he and Steve  via email were trading jokes about whatever college football game was currently on TV. His twinking eyes and sweet smile.

Kevin celebrated his last birthday in front of the TV cheering on Bernie Sanders. By then he'd been through so much with the cancer treatments, pneumonia and all. It was rough on him, but we had faith. And he never lost his sense of humor.

Kevin was always my best supporter. I doubt myself a lot. Always have. So when I was doing something like sewing or cooking and I finally felt like I did a good job I heard this, "Yay, Nancy."  I would feel so lucky to always have his love and approval. Tears flow now thinking of him saying that to me just a few days before he died. 

Now when I finish up a sewing project, drawing, cooking or just getting through the day I say, "Yay Nancy,"  and thank him for all he's done for me.

Happy Birthday, Kevin. I love you. I miss you every day.